It takes a hotel room to raise a baby

On Friday, Kerry Nolan and her 11-month-old daughter were kicked out of Kaushee's Place for the second time in just under three months. Kaushee's emergency housing - offered to women fleeing abuse - limits stays to 30 days.

On Friday, Kerry Nolan and her 11-month-old daughter were kicked out of Kaushee’s Place for the second time in just under three months.

Kaushee’s emergency housing – offered to women fleeing abuse – limits stays to 30 days.

And Nolan’s time was up.

Two days before she was expected to move out, the single mom was standing outside social services in tears.

It was windy and her baby daughter kept pulling the fleece hat off her tiny head.

Bending down to kiss her, Nolan put on a brave face.

“She can sense it if I am stressed,” she said, motioning toward her little girl.

But the tears kept coming.

“We have nowhere to go,” she said.

There are only five second-stage housing units in Whitehorse and there’s always a wait list, said Kaushee’s executive director Barbara McInerney, referring to transitional or interim housing.

“The need for second-stage housing is screamingly evident.”

McInerney has been in the Yukon for 10 years, and has “never seen it this bad.”

While she was in the more communal emergency housing, Nolan applied for one of Kaushee’s second-stage apartments, which would have given her interim housing for six months.

But she didn’t get in. A pregnant woman was chosen instead.

“It’s a brutal thing to have to choose, when every applicant fits the needs and our mandate,” said McInerney.

In June 2008, the Yukon government was given a detailed proposal for a secure, second-stage housing complex, complete with architectural plans.

“Since then, two construction seasons have passed and they haven’t even broken ground,” said NDP MLA Steve Cardiff.

“This is a desperate situation.”

At Kaushee’s there were six women waiting for one unit, he said.

“Only one of them got it – the other five are on the street.”

The day before she had to move out, Nolan found a room at the Family Hotel.

Social Services agreed to chip in $300 a month, which leaves Nolan paying the additional $209.

“I only get $500 a month,” she said.

After rent, that leaves $291 for Nolan and her baby daughter.

The room doesn’t have a kitchenette, something she was looking for, which means all meals need to be prepared in the microwave.

“We’ll be eating at the Salvation Army every day, because we have no kitchen,” she said.

Nolan asked for a room with no outside access, because the last time she was kicked out of Kaushee’s she ended up at the Stratford.

After five days at the Whitehorse motel, her abusive partner smashed in the window threatening Nolan and her daughter.

She called the cops and was brought back to Kaushee’s.

Now, 30 days later, she’s headed for another hotel room and it makes her nervous.

After the last attack, her former partner was thrown in jail, “but I know he has people watching us,” she said.

Life wasn’t always this way.

For more than a decade, Nolan raised her two sons as a single mom, heading back to work when each baby was just three months old.

It wasn’t until she got pregnant with her third child that Nolan ended up in an abusive relationship. She stayed in it because of the baby.

“But then I found out he’d been hitting my boys and threatening them if they told me,” she said.

“I lost it.”

She attacked her partner, was charged with assault and wound up in jail.

It was her first run-in with the law.

Nolan’s sister took the boys, who were 11 and 12 years old at the time.

But her abusive partner got sole custody of their little girl and moved to Vancouver.

Nolan hasn’t seen her for four years.

“He has lots of money and a good lawyer,” she said.

“I have been trying to serve him papers for years, to get partial custody of my daughter.”

Nolan has been struggling with alcohol addiction, but when she got pregnant with Alyssa she turned her life around.

“I didn’t have the opportunity to raise my last daughter,” she said.

“This is my last chance.”

Still, when she gets stressed, Nolan has to fight off her demons.

“Last night I had a really hard time staying home,” she said.

“I’d been crying all day, my daughter and I were getting kicked out with nowhere to go – I was overwhelmed and at wits’ end.

“It would have been so easy to go out and get drunk.”

That’s another reason Nolan wants to stay at Kaushee’s.

“I knew if I left, I would not be able to come back,” she said.

And there are support staff there, to talk to.

At the Family Hotel, Nolan and Alyssa will be on their own.

With no second-stage housing available, McInerney often ends up placing women and children in hotel rooms.

Or worse.

“All we can do is strategize,” she said.

“And sometimes it’s strategizing going back to an abusive partner, and how to minimize the violence.

“It is difficult for me, when this is women’s reality.”

Nolan’s story is one of many.

“What happens to all the women we don’t hear from?” said Cardiff.

“When will the government alleviate the problem?

“I’m appalled it’s taking so long to meet what should be a priority.”

The government’s been working “to build a new second-stage housing project,” said Women’s Directorate minister Marian Horne during question period Wednesday.

“It is coming along,” she said.

“We have a few sites in line.”

The city is selling fully serviced lots on the waterfront, said Cardiff.

“And I understand the city would support such a project.

“So why is it taking so long?”

Nolan is on Whitehorse Housing’s lengthy wait list, and is hoping to get into the new affordable housing unit in Riverdale, which is set to open mid-November.

“I feel like I’m fighting for stuff I shouldn’t have to be fighting for,” she said.

“I just want a safe place for me and my daughter.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com